Changes coming to MOBIUS soon! Find out more.

The Midtown Carnegie Branch Library elevator from the basement to the 2nd floor is not operational. Please ask a staff member if you need assistance. The branch will close for renovations May 6. Find out more.

The Library

thelibrary.org Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri
Books & Authors

The History of Spices

While today we consider spices primarily from a culinary perspective, the trade of spices dominated the global economy for centuries and played an enormous role in human history. The scarcity of spices made them extremely valuable and some, like pepper, were even used as currency. Spices were traded along the Silk Road and spurred the Age of Discovery that culminated in the Spanish discovery of the Americas. Take a look at the items below to learn more about the impact of spices on human history.

 Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices by Andrew Dalby
Spices have long been some of the most sought-after substances in human history. In various forms, spices have served as appetizers, digestives, antiseptics, therapeutics, tonics, and aphrodisiacs. Dangerous Tastes explores the captivating history of spices: the fascination that they have aroused and the roads and seaways by which trade in spices has gradually grown.

 Pepper: A History of the World's Most Influential Spice by Marjorie Shaffer
Pepper describes the part pepper played in bringing the Europeans, and later the Americans, to Asia and details the fascinating encounters they had there. From the abundance of wildlife on the islands of the Indian Ocean, which the Europeans used as stepping stones to India and the East Indies, to colorful accounts of the sultan of Banda Aceh entertaining his European visitors with great banquets and elephant fights, this fascinating book reveals the surprising story behind one of mankind's most common spices.
 
 Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery by David Attenborough
From the fifteenth century onwards, as European explorers sailed forth on grand voyages of discovery, their encounters with exotic plants and animals fanned intense scientific interest. Scholars examined nature with fresh eyes and pioneering artists transformed the way nature was seen and understood. In Amazing Rare Things, renowned naturalist and documentary-maker David Attenboroug explores how artists portrayed the natural world during this era of burgeoning scientific interest.
 
The Silk Road conjures up a hazy image of a caravan of camels laden with silk on a dusty desert track. In The Silk Road, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archeological finds that revolutionize our understanding of these trade routes. Hansen explores seven oases along the road, Silk was not the most important good on the road; paper, metals, spices and glass were just as important. Perhaps most significant was the road's transmission of ideas, technologies and artistic motifs.
 
 When Asia Was the World by Stewart Gordon
While Europe stagnated during the early medieval period, Asia flourished as the wellspring of science, philosophy and religion. This book examines Asia from AD 700 to 1500 by describing the journeys of Asia's many travelers: the merchants who traded spices along the Silk Road, the apothecaries who exchanged medicine and knowledge from China to the Middle East and the philosophers and holy men who crossed continents to explore and exchange ideas, books, science and culture.
 
Though many of the foods in this book are taken for granted and one (the mammoth) is no longer consumed, these foods have kept humans alive for millennia and theirs is a fascinating story. Like the other titles in this highly-regarded series, this book organizes the fifty foods into short illustrated chapters of fascinating narratives: the "who, where, when, why and how" of each food's introduction and its impact on civilization in one or more cultural, social, commercial, political or military spheres.
 
A 6-DVD set exploring the history of how humans have produced, cooked and consumed food, from the earliest hunting-and-gathering societies to the present.

Find this article at